Monday, August 10, 2009

Global Awareness : The Cost of Isolation and/or Pretending Not to See..

Jesse Kornbluth in a recent post on his blog, made some useful points about what isolation can do to people in the context of a book published in 1955--by a Chicago journalist, Milton Mayer, entitled They Thought They Were Free. The book focuses on ten representative Germans who were members of the Nazi party who he literally befriended in the 1950s to come to terms with why became part of the great evil that Nazi Germany wrought on humanity. Kornbluth summarizes some of the Mayer's key findings as follows:

"They did not know before 1933 that Nazism was evil. They did not know between 1933 and 1945 that it was evil. And they do not know it now [in 1951]. None of them ever knew, or now knows, Nazism as we knew it, and know it; and they lived under it, served it, and, indeed, made it.

And none ever thought Hitler would lead them into war.

Why not?

-- They had never traveled abroad.
-- They didn't talk to foreigners or read the foreign press.
-- Before Hitler, most had no jobs. Now they did.
-- The targets of their hatred had been stigmatized well in advance of any action against them.
-- They really weren't asked to “do” anything --- just not to interfere.
-- The men who burned synagogues did not live in the cities of the synagogues.

The isolation of Germany during this period is striking and we made me think of how those countries that live under dictators, or without access to the Internet are peculiarly vulnerable today to brutal dark chapters. We can think of North Korea, Iran and most recently of Darfur. Now thanks to the web and more specifically to Google Earth and the US Holocaust Museum we can now see the brutal evidence

"Using data from the U.S. State Departments Humanitarian Information Unit and working with the United States Holocaust Museum Memorial, Google now shows more than 3,300 villages (yes, entire villages) that have been decimated during the genocide. Google notes that while the numbers have been known for some time, actually seeing the decimation in more detail than ever before provides a clearer understanding of the devastation."

We must always remember the truth of this anecdote taken from Mayer's book
"Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late."

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